Sudan's Interim Leader Promises Return to Civilian Rule

Le Lit-Gen Abdel Fattah El Burhan Abdel Rahman.

Just hours after General Awad Ibn Ouf stepped down as Sudan's military ruler, General Abdel-Fattah Burhan, who is largely unknown outside the military, became chief of the military council that deposed longtime president Omar al-Bashir on Thursday.

Ibn Ouf, who is under US sanctions for supporting genocidal militias in the Darfur region, had been under international pressure to establish a civilian transitional government.

"Burhan is a high ranking officer within the armed forces, but basically he's a veteran soldier," said an army officer on condition of anonymity.

The Sudanese military on Thursday removed President al-Bashir in a coup following months of popular protests against his three decades of iron-fisted rule. Since mid-December, protesters have railed against a tripling of bread prices and an economic crisis that has led to a shortage of basic goods.

Salah Ghosh, the head of Sudan's National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), also quit his post, the country's new military rulers confirmed on Saturday.

"The chief of the transitional military council, Abdel-Fattah Burhan, has accepted the resignation of the chief of NISS," the transitional military council said.

Pledge to 'uproot' former regime

In his first televised address to the nation on Saturday, the interim leader announced he was lifting the curfew across the country, adding that all political detainees would be released. Burhan said that a civilian government would soon be established in Sudan, while he vowed to "uproot" the former Sudanese regime.

"I announce the restructuring of state institutions according to the law and pledge to fight corruption and uproot the regime and its symbols," General Burhan said on Saturday.

The general said that all those involved in the killing of protesters would face justice.

'Not a coup'

Early on Friday, the military council said it had "no ambitions" to permanently rule the East African country.

Lieutenant General Omar Zein Abedeen, the military council's political committee chief, said: "The role of the military council is to protect the security and stability of the country. This is not a military coup but taking the side of the people."

The Sudanese Professionals Association, one of the groups leading the protests, said Ibn Ouf's resignation was "a victory of the people's will." It vowed to continue its rallies unless Burhan agreed to "transfer the powers of the military council to a transitional civilian government."

New 'Arab Spring'?

On the back of popular protests, the Sudanese military on Thursday removed longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir from power in a move widely seen as a coup.

What first began as protests against rising food prices quickly morphed into a sustained challenge against al-Bashir's 30-year rule. The protests gained a boost last week when Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika stepped down after protests against his two decades in power.

Al-Bashir's removal resembled similar military interventions against longtime rulers in other countries in the region during the so-called Arab Spring of 2011.

Despite the immediate jubilation surrounding al-Bashir's downfall, the military intervention risks replacing one dictatorship with another, dashing protesters' hopes for a civilian government and opening the way for further instability.

On Saturday, thousands of Sudanese protested outside the military's headquarter in Khartoum. They vowed to stay on the streets until a civilian government comes to power.

shs,ls/jlw (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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